Billions more for VA in next emergency coronavirus spending package

Abbie Bennett
March 25, 2020 - 4:41 pm
Coronavirus

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One month after Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie declined additional cash from Congress for coronavirus response, nearly $20 billion could be headed VA's way as part of lawmakers' next emergency spending package.

Senate staff told Connecting Vets the new funding package for VA includes about $19.7 billion for medical, IT and other department needs.

That total includes: 

  • $14.4 billion for healthcare services both at VA facilities and through telehealth, including purchasing more equipment and supplies, testing kits and personal protective equipment. This funding also would provide additional support for homeless vets, or those at risk of becoming homeless, VA nursing homes and community living centers. 
  • $2.1 billion to meet the increased demand for care in the community through the Mission Act, specifically emergency room and urgent care. 
  • $100 million for VHA 24-hour emergency management, including overtime, travel, transportation of supplies and training. 
  • $606 million for medical facilities, including developing alternative sites for care, procuring mobile treatment centers, improving security and non-recurring maintenance projects to existing infrastructure and utility systems at VA medical facilities.  
  • $2.25 billion for information technology to support increase telework, telehealth and call center capabilities directly related to the coronavirus and to mitigate virus spread. This funding includes purchasing devices and engaging system bandwidth. 
  • $13 million for the Veterans Benefits Administration to provide additional software licenses and telework support and to enhance cleaning contracts. 
  • $6 million to expand and maintain the 24-hour operation of VA's "Crisis Response and Continuity of Operations Plan" at several sites, including expanding cleaning and sanitation service in high-traffic facilities. 
  • $150 million to support construction at existing hospitals, nursing homes and domiciliary facilities in state homes to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus. 
  • $12.5 million to support the VA Office of the Inspector General in its oversight of VA's virus response. 

Congress gives VA more cash as coronavirus continues to spread

Those numbers are not set in stone, though, staff said and could change as the legislation evolves and advances. 

Last week, Congress passed a virus response spending package that included $60 million for VA COVID-19 testing.

Also last week, the president asked for another $13.1 million for the Veterans Health administration to cover "healthcare treatment costs, testing kits, temporary intensive care unit bed conversion and expansion, and personal protective equipment in response to coronavirus." The proposal also would allow VA to move money from its medical services account to the medical community care account, to help pay for veterans' care at VA's network of community care providers. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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